Dating can be tricky for a lot of people. Like many things in life, it requires to practice to make perfect, or at least be decent at it. For people with social anxiety, however, it might be a lot easier said than done.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), also called social phobia, is the extreme fear of being involved in social settings and is a prevalent and disabling disorder. Meeting new people, being introduced to unfamiliar crowds, or even the simple act of attending social gatherings may prove quite an insurmountable task if one does not have the proper mindset or the right techniques to overcome the pressing hurdles that come with the situation (like initiating a conversation that won’t end up embarrassing you, for example).
In any case, the first step is to always be aware that you have anxiety, rather than deluding yourself into a cocoon of false hope and self-preservation, which will only serve to further sabotage your chances of overcoming it. If you want to earn a new friend, progress your relationship with your date into new territory, or simply learn how to start a conversation without stuttering, admitting your strengths and weaknesses to yourself surely will not hurt your ego.
In this article, we’ll go through how to recognize symptoms that could indicate you have social anxiety, how to recognize the effects of social anxiety on your dating life and relationships, and how to cope and overcome social anxiety to lessen the load that it presses upon your shoulders.
Your Anxiety is Valid
Mental health is an important aspect of everyone’s life. Stressors that might cause various responses in our psyche can be found all over our environment, and as a result, social anxiety is very prevalent, and you can almost certainly assume that you are not alone in this struggle.
SAD is a common psychological disorder, and it can affect dating and intimate relationships in many different ways.Stein DJ, Lim CCW, Roest AM, et al. The cross-national epidemiology of social anxiety disorder: Data from the World Mental Health Survey Initiative. BMC Med. 2017;15:143. … Continue reading On the flip side, one can simply be an introvert and not necessarily have social anxiety. Online dating as well may provide a solution that dissolves the untimely stress of dealing with social situations one is not ready for. But eventually, both cases will lead to a point where you may have to ask yourself: Am I ready to venture out into the world and face somebody else on a date?
In any given year, it is estimated that 3% of the Australian population suffers from social phobia. Social phobia affects up to 13% of the population at some point in their lives.Better Health Channel. (2017). Social phobia. Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/social-phobia Pair this with the unpredictable changes in quarantine protocols in this ongoing pandemic, and it is not a far reach to presume that there is a lot of stress involved in planning a date only to have it moved or cancelled because of things that are out of one’s control.
Pandemic or no pandemic, however, everyone is susceptible to having a case of anxiety before meeting up with a date. It might seem like unlikely or stupid advice, but don’t panic too much because of this. You are adding to your anxiety by constantly dwelling on why you have social anxiety, and whether you’re the only one who has it will only worsen your problem of being in a social environment soon. Relax, chances are, your date is also feeling a plight of nerves at the prospect of meeting you.
Being aware of your anxiety is helpful because it will help you prepare for possible confrontations that would bring you out of your comfort zone, and therefore give yourself enough time to think of ways to adjust and react to them instead of heading into the situation blindsided and with no idea how to cope.
At one or perhaps several points in your adult life, you may have wondered whether it is realistic to engage in a meaningful relationship while continually battling with social anxiety. It is a well-founded worry and concerning yourself about it only proves that you care enough about yourself and your potential partner to make the relationship work. Now the question is: Do you have what it takes to measure up?
Unfortunately, SAD can make it difficult to form, maintain, and build intimate relationships. Part of this is probably because letting your guard down and feeling vulnerable, especially with someone you love and trust, is difficult.Cuncic, A. (2021). How Social Anxiety Affects Dating and Intimate Relationships. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/adaa-survey-results-romantic-relationships-3024769#citation-6 Social anxiety does not only give us obstacles to face when confronting large audiences but sometimes, particularly to the people that we introduce in our lives. It is not easy to show someone the fortified walls that we have built upon ourselves; much more expect them to break down those walls without us giving them the fundamental instruments how to.
According to new studies on the association between social anxiety and relationship happiness, higher levels of social anxiety may result in lower levels of relationship satisfaction. Individuals who are particularly socially apprehensive as a group have a lower overall quality of romantic relationships.Hahn, C. (2017). Does social anxiety disorder affect your romantic relationship? Improve communication skills and avoid these 4 common pitfalls. Retrieved from … Continue reading
Several factors can contribute to the failure of a relationship. Your anxiety does not have to directly result from anything in the relationship itself. However, it can eventually lead to behaviours that will directly impact and create issues for you and your partner.Raypole, C. (2019). Healthline. How to Handle Relationship Anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/relationship-anxiety. Social anxiety can lead to relationship insecurities, and it may lead to a point where you constantly doubt the compatibility you have with your partner. Without communicating these worries, your initial insecurities will only grow and fester, and it might push you to do something that would sabotage your relationship.
The silver lining, of course, is that there are ways to work around your problems with social anxiety. One important thing that you can focus on is working on your emotional maturity and learning how to assess yourself and the situation properly before doing something that would only hurt you later and potentially increase your apprehension with social situations.
To beat social anxiety, one must seek to become the opposite of it. Perhaps there are certain changes that you will need to append in your life to achieve it. But what exactly is the opposite of being socially anxious? Some may say that it is the state of being confident or perhaps being comfortable in a crowd or in one’s skin. I, however, would tell you that it does not need to be those things because truly, confidence is a hard thing to encompass, much less carry. Not all of us are born with it, and it can be a lifelong process before we attain it. What you need, therefore, is composure. For someone with social anxiety, confidence can be easily taken from you, but composure is something that you can always count on.
Controlling your emotions, instead of being controlled by them, can help you immensely in navigating social situations, such as in dating. Knowing the tools that will help you keep your emotions in check when they start to overwhelm you is a very important thing to remember. Breathing exercises, mindfulness, and practising social gestures that convey intellect and interest instead of nervousness are good to practice and instil in your daily habits.
Aside from these mental practices that you can teach yourself, sometimes, talking to somebody else can take a lot of the frustration that you feel with having social anxiety. Having a trusted friend to fall back on to ask for advice, writing your feelings and emotions about a particular person or situation in a journal, and sometimes, even punching a pillow or exercising, can shake away and release the nerves that one may feel at the prospect of having to face somebody in a social setting.
Knowing that your emotions are connected to your anxiety, and acknowledging them instead of shying away from them, is a good sign that you are learning how to let your emotions guide you instead of letting them suffocate you. The only way to beat social anxiety is to face it and to face it as maturely as you can.
Maybe even after all the prep talk and preparation that you do, you will still end up doing something embarrassing. Maybe you’ll make a mistake or two. This time, however, you can at least apologize for it properly instead of ending up in a blubbering mess in front of your date and completely ruining your social and dating life.
It’s time to drop your notions of how a date should go and should be and start focusing on the important things. Your date does not have to be an Oscar-worthy story. There are already a lot of things that you will have to think of and strive to control; you don’t need the pressure of following a script you saw in a movie or read in a book one too many times.
Like we’ve first established above, the first thing to do is to always be aware and admit to the fact that you have social anxiety. Even if it is a difficult thing to let out, letting your date know that you have social anxiety will only help you both as you progress and decide which steps to take.
Practice makes perfect
Another thing I’ll be reiterating from above is that practice makes perfect. Or, at the very least, make you decent at it. You can always communicate this out with your date if you have been talking for a while now, or perhaps you could ask a friend to help you overcome the task when going on a blind date. Practice the tone of your voice and ask some simple questions that can provide for interesting talk. Keep them simple, so you won’t have a mental block later on.
Don’t stray very far from your comfort zone
Rest assured that you already deserve a pat on the back for allowing your feet to arrive at your meeting place instead of staying cooped up in your sheets. Now that you have come this far don’t put pressure on yourself to discuss things that are uncomfortable for you, as it will likely show and affect the entire mood of your date. Remember everything that you’ve prepared and keep yourself composed and engaged in the present moment.
Breathe in and out
You may find your stomach collapsing, spasming, or just frozen throughout the conversation. Maybe you’ll only notice it five or ten minutes into the conversation, and you have no idea how to proceed without being too obvious in your newly-realized fact. Relax. Remember to breathe in and out and keep the butterflies in check. Loosen up and seek peace in the knowledge that you are right where you need to be, and everything is alright. Eat up, laugh with your date, and allow yourself to breathe in some air.
Just because someone has social anxiety does not mean that they should limit themselves to simply accepting the fact that they have social anxiety and not do anything about it. Every single of us has things that we need to improve and things about ourselves that we have yet to discover.
Taking the time to examine ourselves and work on our individual goals is fun in itself, and nobody deserves to be shamed for having social anxiety or simply choosing to remain single for a long time because of it. Sometimes, however, a little nudge or a big leap of faith can also be the key to introducing amazing things in your life if you allow yourself to take a chance.
Having social anxiety is not something that one can solve in a single night right before a date. It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, and an incredible amount of willpower to challenge and lessen. When you resolve yourself to change some of your behaviours and challenge your limits, what once was impossible will reveal itself to be something feasible and possible for you to overcome.
Always remember that nothing comes easy at first. Overcoming your social anxiety demands a lot from you to acknowledge and come to grips with, and it will require you to be vulnerable and honest to yourself more than you’ve ever been in recent times. But if you’ve reached this far, and you still feel a burning, enduring feeling inside you telling you that this is worth trying yourself for, then I only have one thing left to tell you: You have everything to gain here and nothing to lose.
If you struggle with overthinking or other mental health problems, I can help you. I am a certified counsellor with many years of experience. Whether you are experiencing overthinking caused by anxiety, ADHD, low self-esteem or anxious attachment, I can help you. To learn more about my counselling services, click here.
|Stein DJ, Lim CCW, Roest AM, et al. The cross-national epidemiology of social anxiety disorder: Data from the World Mental Health Survey Initiative. BMC Med. 2017;15:143. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-017-0889-2
|Better Health Channel. (2017). Social phobia. Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/social-phobia
|Cuncic, A. (2021). How Social Anxiety Affects Dating and Intimate Relationships. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/adaa-survey-results-romantic-relationships-3024769#citation-6
|Hahn, C. (2017). Does social anxiety disorder affect your romantic relationship? Improve communication skills and avoid these 4 common pitfalls. Retrieved from https://www.anxiety.org/if-social-anxiety-disorder-affects-your-romantic-relationships
|Raypole, C. (2019). Healthline. How to Handle Relationship Anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/relationship-anxiety